Ga. election official takes on Trump, accusing president of ‘fraud’

Published: Jan. 5, 2021 at 5:33 AM EST
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ATLANTA - A top Georgia election official is speaking out about a phone call from President Donald Trump reportedly telling Georgia’s secretary of state to overturn election results.

Gabriel Sterling condemned the quote “continuing misinformation and disinformation” being spread about the security and integrity of the elections process in Georgia.

He was referring to what Trump said during a call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger over the weekend.

Trump pressured Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn Joe Biden’s win, repeatedly citing disproven claims of fraud and raising the prospect of a “criminal offense” if officials did not change the vote count.

“This is all easily, provably false yet the president persists and by doing so, undermines Georgians’ faith in the election system,” Sterling said Monday during a news conference called by Raffensperger.

“Everybody deserves to have their votes counted if they want to be.”

Raffensperger says he does not plan to ask his office to criminally investigate the president’s request to change the outcome of the election.

But Democratic representatives and some state election board members are asking the FBI to investigate.

Experts say only three state offices can investigate whether the president broke a law, and the secretary of state’s office is one of them.

Sterling’s comments came during a news conference at the Georgia Capitol.

The conference took about 30 minutes, and Raffensperger did not speak at the podium.

Sterling went through a number of allegations of election mistakes and “fraud” by President Trump and some of his lawyers, as he has done before, essentially debunking all of them.

Sterling said he and the secretary wanted it made “abundantly clear” that everyone’s vote did count for those who have already voted, and will count for those who vote on Tuesday.

Sterling said he has heard from people he’s known for two decades that their vote didn’t count, and the election was stolen from Trump. Then he replied that if they truly believe that, and he knows it to be untrue, they should “go vote Tuesday, to make it even harder to steal.”

“The reason I am standing here today is because people in authority have said that their votes didn’t count ... and it’s not true ...”

About 16 minutes into the recording, Sterling takes on President Trump’s claims of impropriety in the Georgia vote, point by point.

Interviewed on ABC Monday morning about his hourlong phone conversation with President Trump, Raffensperger said he thinks that the president has bad data about the Georgia vote count. He said that Georgia has followed the law at every step of the vote count.

What Raffensperger says

In an interview Monday, Raffensperger told The Associated Press that he is confident in Georgia’s general election outcome, despite an electoral college challenge supported by some Republicans in Congress.

“If they support a challenge of the electors for Georgia, they’re wrong, dead wrong,” Raffensperger said. Members of Congress will have to make a decision about the other states, he added, “but in Georgia, we did get it right. I’m not happy with the result, as a Republican, but it is the right result based on the numbers that we saw cast.”

Georgia counted its votes three times before certifying Biden’s win by a 11,779-vote margin.

“President Trump, we’ve had several lawsuits, and we’ve had to respond in court to the lawsuits and the contentions,” Raffensperger told Trump on the call. “We don’t agree that you have won.”

Raffensperger said the White House reached out to his office and he assumed the president wanted to talk about the status of the November election. The secretary of state said his deputy previously met with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows when Meadows was in Georgia last month, but that he hadn’t had any other direct contact with the White House since the general election.

Asked if he felt as if the president was pressuring him to do something illegal, Raffensperger said, “I think he was looking for any kind of advantage he could get, and I just don’t see how he’s going to get it.”

David Worley, a Democratic member of the Georgia State Election Board, sent an email to Raffensperger on Sunday night requesting that his office open an investigation into the call.

“To say that I am troubled by President Trump’s attempt to manipulate the votes of Georgians would be an understatement,” Worley wrote.

Worley cited two violations of Georgia law that he said the president might have committed based on his reading of a transcript of the call: conspiracy to commit election fraud and criminal solicitation to commit election fraud.

Once the secretary of state’s office completes an investigation, Worley wrote, the board will determine whether there is probable cause to refer the matter to the state attorney general and Fulton County district attorney.

From reports by WRDW/WAGT, WALB and The Associated Press